MEXICO CITY (CN) — Regularly bursting out into chants of "Out with López," thousands gathered in Mexico City’s main square Sunday to protest a new law that they see as the president's gambit to consolidate the power of his ruling Morena party.
Known as “Plan B” to a constitutional amendment that President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has sought but which failed to pass, the reform would cut the federal electoral authority’s budget and staff and give more polling control to political parties, significantly hindering what elections experts have hailed as decades of democratic progress in Mexico.
Critics claim that López Obrador has held a grudge against Mexico’s electoral authority known as INE over presidential elections he lost in 2006 and 2012.
Mexico’s two houses of Congress on Wednesday resolved the last issue that remained after a meeting in December where they agreed on its other points, sending the reform to López Obrador's desk for signature.
“The system finally worked for him, and now he is destroying it so that he can run it the way he wants to,” said Juan Diego Belismelis, 44, a Mexico City resident who brought his aging father in a wheelchair to protest.
“We came to defend the INE from their dismantling of it,” said Mariana Ruiz, 50, who attended the protest with her family. “They’re cutting its budget so much that it cannot function.”
Decked out in the characteristic pink and white of the federal agency they came to support, the general style of clothing among the protesters clearly drew class lines between the majority who packed the square Sunday and those who would come to support López Obrador.
Celia Rivas held a sign reading: “I am not a yuppie, I live in Tlahuac.”
“The president thinks that only people with a certain social and economic status support issues like this,” said Rivas, 37. Her neighborhood of Tlahuac is one of Mexico City's poorest. “There are those of us who don’t have such a position in society, and we’re still opposed to his politics.”
Her sign made reference to the deadly 2021 collapse of an elevated train in the Mexico City neighborhood where she lives. for The disaster killed 26 and wounded over 100 more, and Rivas and others in her group consider López Obrador, who served as the capital’s mayor from 2000 to 2005, responsible at least in part.
“That happened two years ago, and it is still difficult to get out of there in public transportation,” she said. “It’s a really closed-off area.”
Organizers of the demonstration said that it drew as many as 500,000 people to Mexico City’s main square, but that number is likely a gross overestimate. Authorities planned for an event of 50,000.
Similar protests were seen in dozens of other cities across Mexico, and videos and photos posted to Twitter showed small demonstrations in cities abroad, like Washington, D.C., Paris and London.
The politically charged issue has gotten more and more attention outside of Mexico as the reform has made its way to the executive branch.
In December, López Obrador laughed off the idea that President Joe Biden would be concerned about his Plan B after a newspaper reported that the National Defense Authorization Act directs the White House to make an “assessment of any changes in Mexico’s electoral and democratic institutions.”
More recently, articles in The Atlantic and The New York Times focused on democratic backsliding in Mexico, with the former calling López Obrador the “autocrat next door.”
Once signed by the president, the laws will affect state elections this year in Coahuila and Mexico State, as well as the 2024 presidential election. Opponents have vowed to take the issue to the courts.
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